EPA wants feedback on proposed pesticide guidelines

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking public comment on a pilot project that would update pesticide guidelines to protect endangered species.

The initiative is part of the EPA’s Endangered Species Act Working Plan, which is an effort to get the agency back into compliance with the ESA.

Pesticide program specialist Andrew Thostenson with North Dakota State University Extension says the proposed updates in the pilot would change farming methods.

“There are certain conservation practices to prevent soil moisture and runoff, mitigation measures that might implement buffer zones around sensitive habitats.”

He says there are also restrictions for product applications if there is rain in the forecast within 48 hours.

In a draft white paper, EPA says 27 species are vulnerable to the effects of certain pesticides, including glyphosate, 2,4-D and atrazine. These are endangered birds, plants and invertebrates in at least 14 states across the Corn Belt including Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

The comment period on the pilot project ends in August. Thostenson says it will likely take EPA several months to review comments and start the project.

“This project, at least in my thinking, is a year or 18 months out before they start trying some of these things out in the real world.”

Weed specialist Aaron Hager with University of Illinois Extension says it’s unclear how this pilot program will play out.

“It’s not necessarily the final word. The EPA has made it very clear in the open pages of this document they want public input and need that feedback. They have proposed certain practices, for example, but there may be others they haven’t considered yet.”

Some ag groups, including the American Soybean Association and Ag Retailers Association, tell Brownfield they’re still reviewing the details of the pilot project. But they say its important producers be able to operate productively and sustainably with any proposed changes.

Both specialists say most states could see updated restrictions on product use in several years as EPA comes into compliance with the ESA.

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